And I Repeat, Shooting Arms and Legs Is Bad … Mmmkay?

There are a few topics that can really get people heated and cause arguments. One of those topics is if it's a good idea to fire warning shots, and another is if you should carry with a round in the chamber or not. Just so we're absolutely clear we take the stance that warning shots are bad and carrying with a round in the chamber is a necessity for proper self-defense.

You may have to work yourself up to carrying with a round in the chamber, but you should strive to get to that point sooner, rather than later.

Another topic that sends a conversation into a downward spiral is the whole shooting center mass vs shooting arms and legs thing, also known as “shooting to wound.”

I want to make our position on this very clear before I proceed because we catch a lot of heat in comment sections of articles and Facebook groups just because people don't read entire articles.

We don't recommend that you shoot to wound. 

We also don't recommend that you shoot to kill. 

We recommend that you shoot to stop a threat by shooting the center mass of the bad guy. Your intentions should not be to kill that attacker, but to stop them from killing you. If that person dies as a result of you needing to defend yourself then it is their fault.

They valued their own life over yours when they decided to attack you.

It is never my goal to kill someone. Ever. It is my goal to protect my family and myself from death and if that person dies as a result then so be it.

People often misunderstand what we mean when we say “don't shoot to kill, shoot to stop a threat” and think we mean shoot to wound. We do NOT condone shooting to wound. There are just too many problems with the thought of “I'll just shoot him in the leg.”

Now, shooting to wound, also known as a leg or arm shot, is a mistake for a few different reasons.

First, to a court, it could show your jury of peers that you had reason enough to not use deadly force to stop an attack, even if the act of retrieving your gun can be seen as deadly force based on its own merit.

If they come to the conclusion that you didn't think you were justified by the reasonable person standard to use deadly force when you pulled the trigger, you could be in for a world of legal trouble just because you reasoned with yourself that you're not willing to shoot center mass.

Why do we say shoot to stop a threat, not to kill?

Besides the moral component of having the desire to kill someone, there are legal issues you must think about. Instead of appealing to your morals, because everyone has a different set they're working with, we'll go into the other part.

If you're running around saying “I'd shoot to kill” all over the internet, there is a digital trail you're leaving behind you that incriminates you and makes you look like you wanted to kill someone and were looking for the opportunity. We're living in an increasingly digital world and the digital trails we leave behind will only become more prominent as we get further down the digital hole.

It doesn't matter if you have your privacy settings maxed out, these tech companies seem to be largely anti-gun owner in practice and would likely jump to help make you look guilty.

Another problem with shooting to wound, is that an arm or leg is a much smaller, harder to hit target. This world we live in dictates that we're responsible for every round of ammunition that leaves our barrel. Chances are excellent that if you aim for a leg or arm that you'll miss.

This is amplified if your target is moving. Hitting a moving target isn't as easy as a static target you're shooting at on the range. If you miss your target and that bullet hits someone else who is innocent you've just opened up a whole new can of worms.

Also, arms and legs tend to be thinner than a torso, which can allow even the best expanding hollow points to pass entirely through an extremity and into another person.

You may also waste a round of ammo. And, to be honest, this is something that many people don't think about. If you decide to shoot that person in the arm or leg how do you know it will stop that person? They may not care if they're on drugs and you may make them even angrier.

If that person keeps coming, all you've done is upset that person and wasted ammo. Yeah, maybe they're hurt, but then again maybe they're not. The only way to completely mitigate this is to aim center mass and stop the attack.

And, remember, you're targeting a smaller area like an arm or leg that moves out of tandem with the rest of the body and is therefore much easier to miss. You may not even hit that person with the first shot wasting a round that way.

There are just so many reasons why shooting to wound is bad. There are other reasons why, but these are the main ones. Please leave your thoughts and comments on this topic in the comments below.

Now, I'm not a lawyer and nothing I say should ever be taken as legal advice. I've just been around the industry for a little while now and have spoken to attorneys who say stuff like this. I'm just paraphrasing what I've heard, but you should definitely talk to your own lawyer for advice.

Picking up a copy of The Law Of Self Defense can't hurt either.

About Joshua Gillem

Josh is a lifelong practitioner and student of the gun. He grew up shooting/hunting with his dad, and was given his first gun, a 12 gauge shotgun, when just a small boy. After high school, he joined the Marines where his love for firearms blossomed as he qualified with an M16A2, an M9, and a 240G. Josh has been writing about firearms and tactics for several years, owns the blog Gunners Den, is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, and believes that each individual person has the right to self-defense by any means necessary. Currently residing in gun-friendly NC, he carries a concealed gun on a daily basis, even in his own house.


  1. Charlie on July 2, 2020 at 11:59 am

    Joshua, I agree 100%. If it should come to having to defend myself and/or my family I am going to mitigate the threat the best way I know how, CENTER MASS. I have preached that to my wife and other concealed carry people I know. I would hate it, if the attacker passed away, but what the attacker enters into the attacked with a state of mind and it becomes, or could become, a kill or be killed scenario. My goal is to NOT be killed.
    Thanks for the article. I will share.

    • Mrs Doris Ann Washington on July 13, 2020 at 1:44 pm

      I always thought I would shoot to wound but, I read this article my Son told me the exact same thing. He totally changed my view on wounding. Thanks for this article it was very informative !

  2. Ralph on July 2, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    A warning shot at the price of ammo today, why waste good ammo?

  3. Rabbi Cary Kozberg on July 2, 2020 at 8:47 pm

    Thank you!!!!

  4. David W Svec on July 2, 2020 at 8:57 pm

    Because of the times that we live in shooting to wound could become detrimental to your own health and well-being. You will stand a good chance of being sued. So, the best advice which has already been given should make it clear. No warning shots are needed…if your weapon leaves the holster you better be ready to use it and if you have to shoot, shoot to stop!

  5. Ronald Gerber on July 2, 2020 at 9:01 pm

    Excellent article, your sound advice should be looked at as a learning tool for everyone who reads this article. I am retired Leo and was trained to shoot for “center mass” and to stop the threat to you or a third party.
    Keep your articles coming they are sound.

  6. Larry Voltz on July 2, 2020 at 9:03 pm

    Good article Joshua. Didn’t think that much about it but,I do now. Thanks.

  7. Yogi on July 2, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    To make sure I don’t shoot up my stash. Before hand I go buy how much of what I am planning to shoot plus another 10%. That way my stash is growing slightly each time I go to shoot. To paraphrase what my original Karate instructor said: “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot but, if you have to, shoot to stop the threat (center mass!)

  8. James Coles on July 2, 2020 at 9:15 pm

    I’ve killed people…bad guys who were trying to kill or capture/humiliate me before murdering me for a propaganda video.
    Killing is a messy & unpleasant business.
    Wounding is much harder, especially in those split seconds of self-defense… I’m not sure I could aim & fire well enough to hit an arm or leg in those circumstances.
    Since returning to ‘civilized’ America I have had no need to shoot at another person but if that need arises I am prepared to forcefully stop the threat.
    I saw a video the other day if a robber wearing class 2 body armor…a good guy with a gun, now dead, shot the criminal center mass with a .32 auto…
    The robber stuttered but returned fire & killed the good guy with a gun…then went on his way essentially unscathed.
    The .40 S&W with heavy hollow points I carry might have stopped the robber but after seeing that incident I decided to shoot low torso — below the body armor & into the abdomen …a low abdominal wound will stop any threat…
    So body armor or not no one walks away or raises a gun with his guts hanging out his back.
    If he dies, that’s his fault for being a violent moron

  9. Tim on July 2, 2020 at 9:20 pm

    Great article. I really enjoyed it. You maeva great point mentioning the legal ramifications of intent and not shooting center mass.

  10. Ed on July 2, 2020 at 9:33 pm

    Great insights and flawless reasoning. Thank you.

  11. Randy Gubersky on July 2, 2020 at 10:29 pm

    Thanks Josh….I’m From Canada…am organic farmer in Alberta… I grew up hunting and using guns for animals to eat…. The country of Canada, is controlled by a liberal, democrat, and has started to announce that all guns are going to be outlawed in Canada… it’s very scary what is coming down the line…. like the collapse of rational thinking in the Democratic controlled states in the United States… it is long overdue for people to stand up for right and wrong in North America….. otherwise, those socialists pukes will destroy what has been EARNED

  12. Michael Nabrotzky on July 2, 2020 at 10:34 pm

    Great comments. You gave me some insights that I hadn’t thought of. Thanks.

  13. WhoCares on July 2, 2020 at 10:35 pm

    1. If you must shoot. Shoot center mass.
    2. When the police come. NEVER, NEVER talk with them.
    3. Just give your name. And say. I was in fear for my life. I want a lawyer.
    4. Say no more until you have one with you. And make them give you the right kind of lawyer.
    5. Learn how to shut up. Don’t talk yourself into jail. You can do it very simple.

    • David R Callaway on July 3, 2020 at 4:23 am

      Not quite “legal advice” but you hit the mark with these 5 steps. All real, all true.

  14. Sean on July 2, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    Good article.

  15. John on July 2, 2020 at 11:47 pm

    In the military we were always taught to aim center mass and keep shooting until the threat no longer exists. If one shot does it, then that’s all you need. Depending on the situation, if you have time, move their weapon away from them and secure it. Check for vitals, if any get medical attention once it is safe. Or move on to continue your advance to stop further threats. Secure the scene, seek medical assistance for members and suspects if needed.

  16. Jimmy Robbins on July 3, 2020 at 1:25 am

    I am in total agreement with you on shooting mass to stop the attack. The more bullets the more chances of innocent people getting shot. Aiming a gun requires an extremely fast judgement call which comes from a Hugh sense of responsibility EVERYTIME you carry! If your sense of responsibility isn’t in tact and fully operational … Dont carry.

  17. Arnulfo Tibus, Jr. on July 3, 2020 at 3:25 am

    Thanks for the gem of thought. I never thought much about the legal aspect. There is an old saying that says “What is legal is not necessarily moral.”

  18. Steven Hummer on July 3, 2020 at 4:10 am

    Super information and right on target – truly. There are so many out there that believe the myths or other options. Thanks for putting this out. Much appreciated. After getting a gun and a licence to carry with the requisite training, continued training and education is required not only for the know-how but for the mind-set. Thanks for your continued education.

  19. David R Callaway on July 3, 2020 at 4:20 am

    Good points and right on point. Maryland has it’s deadly force laws available for download and they were a lot different than most people would guess. I hope to never have to draw a weapon in defense but center mass is the target.

  20. Joe Yagar on July 3, 2020 at 5:27 am

    Thank you, Josh! This was very well explained.

  21. David Clarke on July 3, 2020 at 8:27 am

    Nice article. Agree, shoot to stop the threat of harm. Never shoot to kill. Thanks for writing.

  22. Wayne Scott on July 3, 2020 at 10:16 am

    Good advise, Josh, I am going to show this to another member of our Church Security Team. Maybe he will listen to you. You explain this subject better than I do.

  23. Daniel Lambert on July 3, 2020 at 11:00 am

    I have been told that I can’t be required to wear a mask because I’m a concealed carrier?

  24. Sam Newberry on July 3, 2020 at 12:20 pm

    Well said.

  25. gary leblanc on July 3, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    Hi Joshua,

    Great article ! I’ve taught my kids, now 28 and 30 the same thing.
    If you have to shoot, and only as a last resort, do so to stop the person from hurting or killing you or someone else.

    I’ve always said shooting to wound only work in the movies. One thing I don’t remember ever pointing out is where does the bullet go if it passes through an appendage or more likely, if you miss.

    Hurting or killing an innocent person is the worst thing that can happen and something a person will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

    Again, great article, I’ll be sure to pass it on.

    Stay safe !


  26. PatrioticSpirit on July 3, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    Very good article. You explain your terminology very well.

    I have always said that I would shoot until there is no longer a threat.

  27. Gary Sackman on July 3, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    Interesting article about something that law officers have to think about every time they go on patrol.
    The person committing the attack doesn’t care what the “rules of engagement” are.
    They want your money, property, or your car. If they have come armed, they upped the ante, and will do whatever is necessary to take them. That includes killing you and your family members. The criminal mindset does not work according to normal thought processes. If they have been in the “joint” they do not want to go back. I worked for a small police department 40 years ago. When I started, I asked one of my fellow officers, if I to shoot a criminal that is attacking me, do I wound or shoot to kill? His direct answer was to “shoot to Kill”. Why? He explained, that when the crook gets out of the hospital, he can find an attorney that will sue you. For what? Depriving him of making a living, as a crook. Sound too far out? It happened to an officer in another state and the crook won the lawsuit for a substantial amount of money. The sight of an armed person should cause any attacker to back-off and retreat. It is a split second decision to determine whether the threat is serious enough to warrant using force or can be dealt with in a less-lethal manner.

    Good Shooting,

  28. Sue on July 5, 2020 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for the info Josh! It’s always good to be reminded of the realities of carrying a firearm, whether legal or physical.

  29. Ray on July 8, 2020 at 9:25 am

    Great article. My training and philosophy has always been that guns are made to harm and/or kill people and things. My gun is not drawn unless I am willing to use it to perform those functions; and then only to the extent required to quell a threat of the same magnitude. Additionally, I remember that I own every bullet from the time I load it until it reaches its final resting place. I also own any and all damage created by those bullets.

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